Thursday, January 17, 2013

Photo Project | Christmas Light Bokeh

Over the past few years I have complied quite a list of photography tips, tricks, and techniques that I am interested in trying out some day.  However, no matter how well intentioned I may be when I add the items to my list, once there they take up permanent residence and never leave.  It's high time I evict some of them, and in order to help propel me in that direction I have decided to add a new monthly feature to the blog.

Every month I will be experimenting with one of these ideas and sharing the results.  Some of the ideas are new tips and tricks that I have read about and want to learn how to do.  Other things are subjects that I have seen photographed and want to try my hand at photographing for myself.  Some are simply challenges that I want to give myself to help me think outside the box.  No matter what the subject for the month, the photos will show up on the blog in the form of a photo project post.

For my first personal photo project, I decided to tackle something that has been on my idea list forever! As you probably know, I am a sucker for soft dreamy bokeh in photographs so it makes perfect sense that I would want to try my hand at creating some using Christmas lights.  So, before I took the tree down this year, I did a little experimenting with my camera.

The first thing I did was put my camera on my tripod and take photos of the tree using different apertures and corresponding shutter speeds.  I wanted to compare the size and the shape of the bokeh balls using larger and smaller apertures.  I did take all of the photos for this project using the same lens, but it would have been interesting to compare the exact same settings of different lenses to see how the bokeh balls changed. For each of these images, the aperture, shutter speed and ISO is listed before the photo.

(Note to self: clean your lens before doing anything like this again in the future! Every smudge is easily visible in these photos and it looks like you let the dogs lick your lens before your took these.)

f/1.6 1/125 ISO 400

f/2.0 1/80 ISO 400

f/2.5 1/50 ISO 400

f/3.2 1/30 ISO 400

I then decided to play around with placing some of my other holiday decorations at different distances from the tree so see how the bokeh balls changed as I moved my subject closer and farther away from the tree lights in the background. In general the closer I am to the tree, the smaller the bokeh balls and the farther away from it I am the larger they are.

This first photo cracks me up because it looks like it is just a floating snowman head. It is actually attached to a little post, but the scarf is covering it up so it looks like it has no base on it...


My brain was apparently stuck in portrait orientation. Sorry for the monotony of the rest of the images! Hopefully the pretty colors make up for it!




I have a thing for singing christmas stuffed animals. The cornier the better! My mom bought me this one for Christmas a handful of years ago, and I decided to take his portrait this year...


If you haven't figured it out by now, I love snowmen holiday decorations! About 90% of my ornaments and other decorations are snowmen. Poor santa and his reindeer get left out in the cold at my house!


Can you believe that I don't own any white lights? I didn't realize it until after I had already done all of my holiday decoration shopping or I would a bought a strand or two! I had a few other ideas up my sleeve that I wanted to try with some white lights, but I guess they will have to wait until next year. Until then, I hope you enjoyed my first photo project and will join me back next month.

Michele Whitacre is a portrait photographer serving Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area.
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© 2013 Michele Whitacre Photography LLC

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